HOW YOUNG WOMEN CAN SPEAK UP ABOUT GENDER EQUALITY
It wasn't long ago when women had one sole duty: taking care about their family. They couldn't vote, they weren't educated, they couldn't work and their family picked a husband for them. Women could only pray for someone who treats them with respect as generally they were seen as a property of their husband.
Nowadays, worldwide organizations such as the UNO and EU work had to make sure that women have equal access to education and healthcare, equal job opportunities, equal salary and equal rights.
Luckily, the World has changed a lot. However, there are still issues that women have to overcome from very early on in their lifetime. In kindergarten, girls face discrimination when they would like to join games that are considered to be boyish. Moving on, in school they have rather rigorous dress codes to follow, involved in specific type of extracurricular activities and they are guided in a certain way. The latter is true to men as well, although the “freedom of choice” is mostly only valid in their case. In popular culture it's more frequent to see men in roles that are typically associated with women than vice versa.
How young women can speak up and why is it important?
We have come a long way but the journey isn't finished. People now hear the voice of women and they care about what they are saying. Some people are not aware of their own decision making process, judgment or discrimination. It's not necessarily because they think little of women but because the past still affects their thinking. Therefore, in these cases it is a must to make them realize what they are doing. Everybody can change, but change only happens when there's a need for it.
Young women should be encouraged to have faith in themselves. Most young women ignore their instincts; deep inside they know something’s wrong but they doubt themselves. They don't tell anyone how they feel and they believe that no one else feels the same. If everybody follows this method, nobody will know what in fact each person knows.
Women have to stand by each other. If someone speaks up, you should listen and analyse. Even if you don't feel the same tension, you should try to put yourself in their shoes and give credit for them. It's easy to tear down somebody when no one is there to support them.
It can happen that women are afraid of the consequences. There’s always a person to whom you can reach out. In schools, you can turn to a child psychologist, or a designated mental health professional. If you are afraid to ask for help in person, you can just leave an anonym a note and make them aware of the situation. They will contact the school’s principle, headmaster or the person in charge and they will take care about the issue, most of the times in the form of a staff education. At workplaces, there are highly developed HR strategies to deal with any problem and a lot of places have an after-work women programme to facilitate women’s career development. They often organize thematic weeks or days, where women in business is usually a topic on its own.
If you believe that your name won’t remain a secret, make sure that you share your negative experiences with at least one person. Be it your friend, parent or spouse, the only important thing is to tell it to somebody. If you keep these issues for yourself, your whole personality can change. Keeping dark secrets is very hard on your soul.
If you are too ashamed to tell your story to an acquaintance, tell it to somebody who you don’t know. There are several help-lines that you can call free of charge. They will listen to your problems and as educated helpers, they will also be able to give you great advice. They are there to help 24/7 so you can call them any time.
Now, take a step back and look at the ’how’ element again.
Imagine that you experience a situation where you don’t feel comfortable and you would like to speak up but you are not sure how. Try to speak with the other party in person and tell them how their action made you feel. Insist on your opinion and make sure that they take you seriously. Whether or not they understand your point, you can still ask them to avoid this kind of behaviour in the future. If they are not willing to accept your request, look for someone who can convince them to do so. Obviously, this can only work in certain situations. You should never try this with anyone who physically abused or threatened you.
This method works in front of a bigger crowd as well. If you are humiliated in front of many people, you should still inform the speaker about their inappropriate actions.
Never settle for less than what you deserve. If you apply to a school or a job, and they turn you down while your male friend with the same set of skills and accomplishments is hired, you should definitely request a cross-check.
Last, but not least, don’t forget about the bright side. Being a woman is fantastic. You are strong and beautiful and you can do anything if you put your mind into it. Learn hard, climb higher, jump longer, go further. Don’t forget that the only thing that could stand in your way is you and fighting with yourself is hard and exhaustive. Trust your instincts and be your number one supporter. Be who you are, love who you want and live how you love. Nothing else matters.